MILAN — Missoni’s reorganization continues “under the evolution of continuity,” said chief executive officer Livio Proli, and one of the first main tangible signs is a change in the brand’s creative direction, as Angela Missoni has decided to take a step back from the role she has held for the past 24 years.
While maintaining her role as president of the company, she will be succeeded ad interim by Alberto Caliri, who has been her “right hand” for the past 12 years and whose first collection will bow for spring 2022.
In an interview with WWD, Proli presented his five-year plan for Missoni and underscored the “absolute common purpose” shared by the Missoni family and FSI, the Italian fund that took a 41.2 percent stake in the family-owned company in 2018, in restructuring the company after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Angela is showing sensibility and courage as well as foresight with this decision, which will contribute to kick-start the third cycle of the company with a new injection of energy and creative strength,” said Proli. “She will accompany the evolution of the brand, but she realized she would have conditioned [influenced] the company in staying on” as creative director.
Caliri is tasked with expanding Missoni’s reach, targeting new customers. “We have an extremely loyal customer base of over-40s but we need to open up to a new pool of consumers, including Millennials, but this is not about age, it’s rather about a mind-set — you can wear Missoni with the same freshness whether you are 35 or 60,” explained the executive. The designer is also asked to expand the collections with a more extensive range of products, including entry price items. “This however does not mean we are trading down, on the contrary, the brand will continue to be positioned in the luxury range. Entry prices will still be of the highest quality.”
Missoni’s first show under Caliri’s lead will be held in September, “hopefully not digital,” said Proli and the focus will be on women’s wear, with “maybe a few men’s looks.” He admitted there are interesting opportunities to develop the brand’s men’s category, but as a first step the focus will be on women’s wear and on the signature line.
Angela’s first steps within the family’s company were on the Missoni kids line, followed by jewelry and fragrances. Around 1991, she felt she wanted to do her own apparel line and started Team Angela Missoni with two friends. After working for two years with her mother Rosita, who at the time was designing the fashion signature line, Angela took her first bow alone on the catwalk in October 1997.
Her first step was to clean up the brand, give it an identity and lighten up the weight of the pieces — something the increasingly sophisticated technology over the years has continued to help her achieve. She also reworked the graphic effects. She has argued that the brand had become synonymous with knitwear and was too sportswear-oriented. She went back to her mother’s original dresses and rearranged the prints, reintroduced evening wear, Lurex threads, and a ’70s’ inspiration, which were immediately well-received.
While relying on a history spanning over 70 years and a brand that has not been tarnished and with “a distinctive” identity, Proli conceded it needs to be “dusted off and made more relevant and cool. We want to offer elements of surprise in a more modern language while not betraying Missoni’s roots. ”
Proli, a Giorgio Armani Group veteran who joined the company in May last year, has been working on the 2020-2025 business plan with the shareholders. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic eroded top and bottom lines, and the company in June will report a loss for last year and a 33 percent decrease in revenues compared with 2019. Sales in 2019 totaled 110 million euros, including the aggregation of the home line, designed by honorary president Rosita Missoni, who founded the company with her late husband Ottavio, affectionately called Tai, in 1953.
However, while this and next year will continue to be “difficult,” Proli sees Missoni returning to a position of strength in 2023 and report double-digit growth in 2025. “Our goal is a sustainable and durable growth, without compromising quality. FSI is not an aggressive fund. This is a business so of course we must return to profitability, but shareholders know the value of the company is beyond the balance sheet,” Proli observed.
He said the company has secured new funds through a pool of banks to navigate 2021 and 2022 and confirmed investments of a minimum of 20 million euros over the next four years. Proli admitted the pandemic was “dramatic” but that it also caused the company to take significant steps to restructure.
As reported in March, Margherita Maccapani Missoni, Angela’s daughter, said she was relinquishing her role of creative director of the M Missoni line, whose future remains uncertain.
The reorganization also sees the sons of the late Vittorio Missoni, Angela’s brother, take on new roles.
Giacomo was named president and CEO of Missoni USA, while Ottavio, formerly president of Missoni USA, is now in charge of sustainability, a newly formed department. “There’s so much talk about sustainability now but the Missonis have embodied this for so long,” said Proli, citing a few examples, such as growing their vegetable garden since the ‘90s and consistently recovering yarns. “We are studying eco-friendly concept stores to bow in our outlets from 2022 and working on sustainable packaging and labeling.”
The importance of the family, which holds 58.8 percent of the shares, and the values transmitted through the generations, remain central, said Proli, starting from Rosita Missoni, who will turn 90 in November, and who remains in charge of the home collection, a brand pillar that contributes to build Missoni as a lifestyle brand.
“Despite the pandemic, we have received many interested calls even before the presentation of the relaunch plan because people understand there is great potential in the relaunch of the brand,” contended Proli.
In the first quarter, sales have risen 20.5 percent, he said. The brand’s website saw a 54 percent spike in revenues and the home line a 43 percent gain. He said that, despite the closure of stores, strong signals came through the sales on Farfetch.
Entering China and further building the American market are priorities of the five-year plan presented by Proli. After opening a branch in Shanghai earlier this year, Missoni will open its first flagship in China in that city, which will carry all the brand’s products, and join Tmall. Eight openings in China are planned between 2022 and 2024, in “a prudent approach,” he remarked.
“America has shown a quick restart,” said Proli, confident in the brand awareness in that market. In addition to an active online presence, Missoni will open two new stores in two years and “Giacomo is working to reopen a conversation with department stores.”
Globally, there are 20 Missoni stores and the plan is to reach 46 units by 2025.
Proli was candid about limiting the family of accessories for the brand, given that the category is not part of Missoni’s expertise. “For this reason, we are thinking of soft bags, maybe mixed with knits, as in our knit sneakers. This does not mean that we are giving up on the category and perhaps in the future we could think of buying an accessories brand or sign a license.”
Asked if capsules are also in the pipeline, given the popularity with many of Missoni’s competitors, Proli said “yes, especially for shoes and bags in the next half of the year. But we don’t plan to flood the market, these will be measured.”
Investing in innovation, “realizing that textile design experts are rare,” Luca Missoni, Angela’s brother, is launching a new training center called Missoni Lab in Sumirago, Italy, where the company is based. Tai Missoni’s simple yet efficient system to create the famous zigzags and flame patterns — a series of small colored lines drawn on checked paper with matching shreds of yarn to indicate the sequence for the looms — is still used at the company, but the Lab will help digitize and modernize the system, Proli said. Missoni has acquired new modern looms and students starting September will go through lessons in the morning and actual training in the afternoons. “There are talented students out there but technicality can be an obstacle, so they have to learn to turn their creativity into reality.” The one-year training will be equally supported by FSI and by Missoni. “We want to bring back Rosita and Tai’s avant-garde curiosity,” said Proli.